The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler 

My Rating: 5/5 stars

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire 

Published: April 4th, 2017

Received: I received an e-arc from netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Purchase:  Book Depository

Cyndy Etler’s gripping memoir gives readers a glimpse into the harrowing reality of her sixteen months in the notorious “tough love” program the ACLU called “a concentration camp for throwaway kids.”
I never was a badass. Or a slut, a junkie, a stoner, like they told me I was. I was just a kid looking for something good, something that felt like love. I was a wannabe in a Levi’s jean jacket. Anybody could see that. Except my mother. And the professionals at Straight.
From the outside, Straight Inc. was a drug rehab. But on the inside it was…well, it was something else.
All Cyndy wanted was to be loved and accepted. By age fourteen, she had escaped from her violent home, only to be reported as a runaway and sent to a “drug rehabilitation” facility that changed her world.
To the public, Straight Inc. was a place of recovery. But behind closed doors, the program used bizarre and intimidating methods to “treat” its patients. In her raw and fearless memoir, Cyndy Etler recounts her sixteen months in the living nightmare that Straight Inc. considered “healing.”

Trigger warning for sexual abuse*


No book has ever made me physically sick before, but this one, this one did the trick. The horrors that Cyndy had to endure. The grossness of straight the inhumanity of it makes it little better then a concentration camp. I kept trying to disassociate myself from what I was reading in my mind. I tried to keep myself thinking that it was fiction when my mind was continuously screaming at me it’s real, it’s real, it’s real. This book is hard to read. This book is heartbreaking. Yet it captivates you with every single word. 

Cyndy is a hero in my mind. I have to commend her for the strength she showed by writing about something so personal and so tragic. Cyndy will change lives with this book and I know it because in so many ways The Dead Inside has changed mine. I never knew that Straight Inc. was an actual place. That the Just Say No campaign and so many of other movements against drugs in some way created something so sinister. The Dead Inside is the perfect title because that’s what Straigtlings are hollow and dead versions of their former selves. This book has made me want to act out and spread awareness. To find out more about Straight and its sister programs so that I could in turn get others to become aware and fight against this injustice. 

The sort of brainwashing and “treatment” Straightlings received were inhuman. The fact that it made many Straightlings feel like it was the only safe place when they were living in a hell on earth is absurd and it completely angered me. 

However, Straight itself was not the part that hit me the hardest. What hit me most was Cyndy’s years before Straight. Where her stepfather was an evil that destroyed my heart and her mother did nothing to stop any of it. Sexual abuse is something that breaks my heart the most because it the one thing that can break down a human to the point of true emptiness. 

The Dead Inside is a heartfelt survival story of a normal girl forced into horrific circumstances. It will break your heart over and over only to be healed by the knowing that Cyndy made it through because otherwise this story would have never been written at all. 

Thanks for reading! I’m sorry that this got really depressing towards the end. I loved this book and I feel honored to have been able to have read it. I hope you all get to read it someday soon! Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

-Till next time!

8 thoughts on “The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler : A Review 

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